Odisha government selected agricultural land instead of wasteland for implementing watershed development projects, finds Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
CAG has asked the State government to respond to its preliminary findings on the goof-ups made in the water-harvesting projects.
The draft CAG reports says to overcome the problem of drought, land degradation and to improve the socio economic condition of economically weaker sections, watershed development projects were taken up in the State through various centrally sponsored schemes like Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP), Integrated Watershed Development Programme (IWDP), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY), and Integrated Watershed Management Programmes (IWMP).
Besides, under soil conservation wing Macro Management of Agriculture (MMA) and two sub programmes namely National Watershed Development Programme for Rainfed Area (NWDPRA) and River Valley Project (RVP) are implemented.
The watershed development programmes are also implemented under the State plan Revised Long Term Action Plan (RLTAP) in KBK districts and Jeebika.
“As pare DPAP and IWDP guidelines, project area should be non-forest and degraded land and the project area should be common land,” it says.
However, draft report points out, 4,18,501 ha was selected for treatment in 10 test-checked districts at a cost of Rs. 256.63 crore. However, the selected land includes 2,39,401.60 ha (57 per cent) agriculture which was ineligible under the guidelines. Of the Rs. 234. 86 crore spent from 2001-02 to 2012-13, Rs. 138.15 crore (59 per cent) was spent on ineligible land. Project directors of development projects had explained that due to non-availability of wasteland and pastureland, agricultural land was selected.
“This was not acceptable as 7074.43 sq km (707443 ha) of waste land was available in the districts as per Wasteland Atlas of India,” CAG draft report says.
Watershed development programmes were envisaged to harvest every drop of rainwater for purpose of irrigation, plantation including horticulture and floriculture, pasture development and fisheries to create sustainable sources of income for village community as well as for drinking water supplies, according to the draft report. Besides, restoration of ecological balance by harnessing, conservation and development of natural resources such as land, water and vegetative cover especially plantation were other priority areas.
The draft report also raised objection over use of machines instead of labourers in the watershed development projects.